Crags in Andalusia (cliff ecosystems)
Power of petrified nature – limited access and remarkable wildlife.
Andalusia is a mountainous region, where limestone mountain ranges abound and are characterized by their steep and rugged reliefs and offer abundant rocks, immense walls and canyons.
The cliffs are inaccessible places and ideal sites for the nesting for large raptors: griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Bonelli eagle (Aquila fasciata), bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus). They also host a specialized birdlife of passerines like rock thrush (Monticola spp), black wheatear (Oenanthe leucura), redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) and the crag martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris). Also remember that many urban birds species have adapted to live in cities from their original rupiculous environments, such as lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni) or house martin (Delichon urbicum).
The vegetation is generally scarce on rocks due to the verticality of the environment and to the non-existent soils or in its minimum expression. But there are some species and, in fact, the Mediterranean rupicolous vegetation is quite diverse and is enriched by the species found at the base of the wall (saxicol plants). The characteristics of the substrate vary depending on the bedrock (limestone, dolomites, siliceous) and humidity (orientation, shade, water filtration) and favor the existence of a variety of endemic species, many of them of high conservation value.
Also note curious groves of dwarf palm trees (Chamaerops humilis) and wild olive trees (Olea europaea sylvestris) that literally hang from some cliffs.
There are many steep cliffs in the young and limestone mountain ranges of Andalusia, here the spectacular Peñón del Berrueco.
The cliffs of the Guadiaro River Natural Monument are home to real hanging natural gardens of dwarf palms (Chamaerops humilis) and wild olive trees (Olea europaea sylvestris).
The Spanish ibex (Capra pyrenaica) is an extraordinarily agile mammal at ease on any crags in Andalusia.
The high Mediterranean mountain of Sierra Nevada and its famous permanent lagoons (‘borregiles’).
Iberian ibex (Capra pyrenaica) are kings of the mountains, moving with great agility through these ecosystems and like no other mammal.
The caves are numerous, especially in karstic environments, and host large populations of bats and invertebrates restricted to underground (hypogeal) conditions.
Reptiles are also very abundant in rocky areas where they find plenty of hiding places between stones.
One of my fondest memories is seeing a huge flock of over 1,000 red-billed choughs in the Baza Mountains.
A typical griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) nest
Located on a narrow ledge halfway up a high limestone cliff, probably at the level of an old gallery or cave of the karstic model; formed by a large and coarse accumulation of twigs on the ground and only protected by the overhang; the rock walls stained with white guano, the surroundings of the nests grassed with nitrophilous plants. The adult watches over the chick to ensure thermoregulation, both mid-day heat and cold at night.